HIFI WALKER A1 (modded)

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by james444, Jul 29, 2018.

  1. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Finally found the time to do a short writeup on my favorite budget DD IEMs of 2018, the HIFI WALKER A1. While the JVC FD01 are currently my favorite DDs regardless of price, the HW A1 cost only about 50 dollars/euros and still offer highly competitive sound quality when modded. I consider these a great buy and an upgrade over both my former budget favorites, the Fostex TE-02n and Blitzwolf BW-ES1.

    The HW A1 are available from several Amazon sites:
    US: https://www.amazon.com/HIFI-WALKER-Resolution-Headphones-Attenuation/dp/B077ZYP7H9
    Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Resolution-Headphones-Earphones-Attenuation-Microphone/dp/B077ZYP7H9
    UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/HIFI-WALKER-A1-Resolution-Attenuation-metallic/dp/B0734JHX1N
    France: https://www.amazon.fr/HIFI-WALKER-A1-intra-auriculaires-atténuation/dp/B0734JHX1N
    Italy: https://www.amazon.it/HIFI-WALKER-intrauricolari-risoluzione-attenuazione/dp/B0734JHX1N
    Germany: https://www.amazon.de/HIFI-WALKER-Hochauflösende-Ear-Kopfhörer-Geräuschdämpfung-Metallisch/dp/B0734JHX1N
    Japan: https://www.amazon.co.jp/HIFI-WALKER-Resolution-Headphones-Attenuation/dp/B07CXLCKHJ


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    I've had these for a few months now and noticed only two issues, both of which have been easy to resolve:

    - The stock silicone tips are rather stiff, these quality IEMs deserve better tips. If you don't have higher quality (JVC, Sennheiser, Ultimate Ears, ...) tips at hand, I'd recommend spending a few bucks more for these comfy and good sounding "gel" tips: https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=sennheiser+cx+gel+tip

    - The stock cable is a bit springy and lacks a chin slider, which is particularly bothersome if you want to wear the cable over your ears. Solution: just use the twist tie that comes with the IEMs to build yourself a nice DIY chin slider:

    Edit: newer revision seems to have a chin slider: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...hifi-walker-a1-modded.6689/page-2#post-220045

    [​IMG]


    Now, without further ado, here's the measured stock frequency response:

    [​IMG]

    Not all that impressive. V-shaped response with boosted bass and a sizeable treble spike, typical of many DD IEMs.


    Which prompts us to craft a little DIY- micropore damping filter, 2mm wide strips criss-cross on top of the nozzle:
    (If you don't have 3M micropore tape, you can get it e.g. from here: https://www.amazon.com/3m-Micropore-Medical-Tape-Roll/dp/B0052ELW42/)

    [​IMG]

    And the result: (red = stock, blue = micropore)

    [​IMG]

    Much better! This is a warm / bassy / downsloping response, with significantly smoother treble than stock. If you're a basshead, or primarily plan to use these in noisy surroundings, you might want to consider stopping at this point.


    However, if you're looking for a more neutral response, you'll need a thin and sharp needle to pierce the front vent mesh:
    (Important: make sure your needle is really sharp, as not to dislodge, but actually pierce the mesh beneath the vent!)

    [​IMG]

    And the result: (red = stock, green = micropore + pierced front vent)

    [​IMG]


    Summary: The HIFI WALKER A1 are very easy to mod and offer stellar sound quality when modded. Compared to the $350 JVC FD01, the fully modded HW A1 fall just a tiny bit short in bass dynamics, detail resolution and treble extension. However, the transition from mid to high range is even a tad smoother on the HW A1 and timbre is similarly excellent on both IEMs to my ears.

    Bottom line, these offer at least 90% of the JVC FD01's sound quality overall, at 15% of the cost. Highly recommended!
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2018
  2. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    Great job. I’m gonna perform this mod and give it as a gift to a teenager who wants IEMs. Will report back on what I think of them.
     
  3. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    How does this compare with the modded Fostex and modded Alpha/Delta?
     
  4. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Thanks, I'm looking forward to your feedback!

    IMO, the modded Fostex are the most forgiving of the bunch, but also the least detailed, particularly in the low range. The modded Alpha & Delta D6 are more similar sounding to the modded HW A1, but I still feel that the latter have a slight edge over the former in resolution. In terms of build, the A1's double-twisted PU cable seems more durable to me than the D6's braided cable, but of course it's also stiffer. Both housings are barrel-shaped, but the A1's is a tad smaller and tapered, so it's a somewhat easier fit for me and doesn't stick out as much as the D6's.

    What I personally like most about the HW A1 is the brassy timbre of cymbals. From my experience, this is very hard for DD IEMs to get that right... and imo the A1 do a better job at it than a lot more expensive DDs. Still, the modded D6 are very good bang for buck as well. So, if you already own a pair of those, the possible gain in sound quality might not justify getting the A1 too.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  5. Bina

    Bina MOT - Shanling

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    Ok, seems nice. Anybody has link for these on Taobao?
     
  6. james444

    james444 Friend

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    No personal experience with Taobao, I'm afraid. I only have a link for what I believe is the OEM on Alibaba:
    https://fineacoustics.en.alibaba.com/

    Maybe this can help finding them on Taobao?
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
  7. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I’m slowly amassing a small army of james approved budget DDs. I’m sure I’ll be adding these to the collection soon.
     
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  8. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    My order should arrive within the next week - ahead of which, some questions for @james444 on the mod...

    1) Did you experiment with blocking/shrinking the rear vents, and if so what effect did that have on the bass cf. piercing the front mesh?

    2) From the position of the front vent, it looks like accidental driver-slaughter isn't an issue when needling ...?

    3) Stock nozzle mesh/filter (presuming it exists - not clear from the photo): leave on or remove?

    4) You mention JVC tips, and the nozzles look fairly fat as well as short. Sprial Dots, then?
     
  9. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    Thank you for this post! I was looking for something cheap to pair with the M0 and, like always, you come through with a super interesting DD IEM with tons of modding potential.
     
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  10. monacelli

    monacelli Friend

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    PSA - Amazon has these available on sale right now for $30. Direct through Hifi Walker with fulfillment by Amazon

    Edit: Deal has ended
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018
  11. james444

    james444 Friend

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    All good questions :)

    1) No, I didn't consider a rear vent mod in that case. Restricting air flow through the rear vent is usually a good way to attenuate a mid bass hump while retaining sub bass. Since stock FR has a steady rise from mids to sub bass (without hump), increasing air flow through the front vent is the treatment of choice here.

    2) No risk of accidentally taking out a driver when needling. However, as I mentioned, there's a risk of accidentally dislodging the mesh behind the vent instead of piercing it. Therefore make sure that your needle is really sharp.

    (PS: If the needling goes wrong and you dislodged the mesh, you'll notice a significant drop in bass. Even then, stay calm... there's a remedy for that, which I'll illustrate in a later post.)

    3) There's a stock nozzle mesh, which you just leave as is and stick your micropore strips on top of it.

    4) Yup, JVC Spiral Dots will fit. Those are pretty common 6mm nozzles.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  12. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    I gave these a listen with the included tips, used the tape mod but didn’t pierce the mesh.

    These sounded “meh” to me at first but I flipped them so the wires hang over my ears and got a better fit; now they sound pretty good. It was such a large improvement I had to rewrite this post.

    If the Massdrop Plus is $300 sound then these are $150-175 sound. If the Massdrop Plus is an HD600 then these are a M50x. I would prefer sweeter or more forward mids but they’re really not bad for $50. These certainly have limitations in comparison to the pricier IEMs I’m used to hearing, for example the FR doesn’t sound as smooth (I’m hearing certain sounds in the high frequency range more than I am used to, which suggests to me they are erroneously exaggerated) and there’s a loss in clarity and separation, some higher timbre (e.g. hi hat) sounds funky and one dimensional; overall it sounds muddier (but the MD+ is especially crystal clear so that may not be a fair comparison). The bass rumble of the DD on these is more fun though. I am not a basshead but if you like a little bit of rumble you’ll probably like these.

    They sounded quite bad when I tried placing them in my ears wire-down (as most people probably would) so make sure you try a few angles or different tips if you get these. The sound is better with the tape than it was stock; sounds a bit less hollow or scooped.

    I am spoiled nowadays but I would have been happy with these when I was in college and was buying $20 JVC Marshmallow IEMs. I feel good about giving them as a gift. Thanks @james444
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
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  13. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    These came in today. @james444 , did you do both stock and modded measurements with the stock tips? The stock tips have narrowish (4 mm) bores, which on the 6mm nozzles results in a bit of reverse-hornyness cf. spiral dots:

    [​IMG]

    @a44100Hz , maybe try wider-bore tips to clean up the treble. Using Sprial Dots made things sound clearer there to me, exaggerated (even more) though it was.

    Mods in the next couple of days...
     
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  14. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    @james444 these ports are goddam tiny. Where the hell do I get a needle that small?!?
     
  15. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master 2.0

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    You're not supposed to use a needle.
     
  16. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    I tried to use my boy parts but my microscope is on the fritz.
     
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  17. james444

    james444 Friend

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    I couldn't get reliable measurements with the stock tips on my miniDSP EARS. Too much variance... so I ended up doing the measurements with these Sennheiser CX compatible Gel Tips. I concur that the stock tips have too narrow bores for the nozzles. Bottom line, if you want to get the best out of these IEMs, don't use the stock tips!

    Hmm, I used the smallest one of a set of sewing needles I had at home. It's a Singer No 3 size, but I suppose needle sizes in the US differ from those in Europe. From prior experience, a 40 or 42 gauge felting needle or a small syringe should also do the trick.
     
  18. monacelli

    monacelli Friend

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    Just started playing with these. I have done the tape mod, but not the vent mod. Initial impressions are that these are pretty good for the price (especially if you can get them for $30), but that it's a stretch to say they get to 90% of the FD01's performance. Even with the tape mod, the treble timbre is quite plasticky and artificial to my ear. Nylon string guitars sound a bit like toy instruments in comparison to the FD01. The A1 doesn't convey any of the tonal richness of the JVC. This is somewhat source dependent. For me, the gap between the A1 and the FD01 is something like this on an iPhone (FD01 >> A1), but more like this on a capable AIO, e.g. Fulla 2, (FD01 >>>> A1). I am listening to the A1 on the Fulla 2 now, and the A1 doesn't scale that well with the Fulla 2 in my opinion. Probably better suited to phones and budget DAPs. I imagine it would complement the little Shanling M0 quite nicely. I agree that it's a pretty good cheap DD iem, but for me it doesn't dramatically overachieve. A good beater pair though, and happy to have something that sounds decent that I wouldn't sweat losing or breaking.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
  19. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Just for clarification of the bolded part, I was referring to the fully modded HW A1 with better tips than stock.

    I'd only recommend the half-mod if you're a basshead (and don't care about accurate timbre anyway ;)). Or if you primarily plan to use these in noisy surroundings, where part of the bass will inevitably get drowned out.

    However, the timbre / tonality of a half modded HW A1 in quiet surroundings isn't anywhere close to the FD01. To illustrate what I mean, here are the frequency responses of a half and fully modded HW A1 compared to my "reference" FD01. Please note that the lows boost of a half modded A1 doesn't just affect bass, but it affects the lower mids as well:

    (red = "reference" FD01, blue = half modded HW A1)

    [​IMG]

    (red = "reference" FD01, green = fully modded HW A1)

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
  20. james444

    james444 Friend

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    How to patch up a vent mod that's gone wrong

    Typically, piercing the front vent ought to be an easy and straightforward task. Just use a small, sharp needle and poke a hole through the mesh behind the vent. Due to increased vent leakage, low range sound pressure at the nozzle exit will decrease (see FR-graphs). The result should be pretty consistent regardless of the needle used, because any needle small enough to fit through this tiny vent should result in a similarly sized tiny hole in the mesh.

    However, things may go wrong and for some reason (needle not sharp enough, mesh not properly glued, ...) you may notice a significant drop in bass after the mod. In that case, do not worry! It means that there's too much leakage through the vent now, but you can still patch it up from the outside to limit the airflow through the vent and regain proper low range sound pressure.

    All you need to do is seal up the vent with a strip of clear tape and poke a tiny hole through the tape, directly above the vent. In order to ensure proper channel balance, I'd recommend performing the same procedure on both earpieces.

    [​IMG]
     
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